Did you know that Pennsylvania has the fifth largest older adult population in the nation with 3.4 million individuals?1 As the population continues to age, more people are weighing their options when it comes to downsizing, moving into a senior living community, or choosing to age in the comfort of their homes. According to a 2021 Home and Community Preferences survey by AARP of 2,826 U.S. adults, about 75% of people over the age of 50 expressed that they would like to remain in their current houses and communitiesmeaning aging in place is becoming a more prevalent life choice among older adults.2What to Know About Aging in PlaceIf youre leaning toward spending your years in the place where you feel the most content and safe, then you need to be willing to make some modifications to your home. As you age, your needs change, which means certain features in your home may need to be adjusted. Wider doorways and walkways; accessible bathrooms, kitchens, and bedrooms; ramps and lifts; non-slip floors; and stability aids like grab bars and handrails are some of the most common enhancements that come to mind, but assistive technology can play an important role in aging in place too.Many people choose to age in place because they want to maintain their independence, and assistive technology helps make that possible. From smart home devices that allow you to control the temperature or lights with voice commands to amplified phones and doorbells, there are plenty of high-tech tools that can help you navigate your day-to-day with ease. If youre a senior with hearing loss, Captioned Telephone Relay Service is a free service that allows you to read captions of whats said to you during phone conversations using a uniquely designed CapTel phone.CapTel Makes Phone Conversations Clearer Using CapTel, you can confidently and securely age in place knowing that you can effectively communicate over the phone. Whether youre calling loved ones to catch up, chatting with your doctor, or contacting first responders in an emergency, CapTel is a dependable communication solution for older adults who have hearing loss.Best of all, the CapTel captioning service is free and available in English and Spanish, with captions appearing on the bright, built-in display screen of the CapTel phone just moments after the other caller has spoken. CapTel phones can be purchased directly for $75 through a third-party vendor, or qualified Pennsylvania residents can apply for a CapTel device through the states Telecommunications Device Distribution Program (TDDP)which provides specialized equipment to individuals who find it difficult to use a standard phone. Age in Place Confidently with CapTelTo learn more about CapTel, including how to purchase or apply for an assistive communication device, visit pactrs.com today!Sources:1Master Plan for Older Adults, Pennsylvania Department of Aging 22021 Home and Community Preferences Survey: A National Survey of Adults Age 18-Plus | Joannne Binette & Fanni Farago, AARP Research CapTel is a registered trademark of Ultratec, Inc.
With stores putting out holiday decorations well before Halloween, it is hard to avoid the hype surrounding the holiday season.For most people, it is an anticipated time of year with traditions, memories and family gatherings. But for older residents, these same reasons may result in the blues, making the holidays a challenging time. Sometimes beloved traditions and family gatherings become out of reach as we age and may be isolated from friends and families. Holidays may remind us of the passing of time, who is missing in our lives and who is not nearby. The loss of holiday traditions and gatherings often changes the way we feel about the holidays. Sometimes reminiscing on traditions that have gone can fuel feelings of loneliness.An AARP study found that 31% of respondents felt lonely during the holiday season. Additionally, another 41% worried about a family member or friend feeling lonesome. Whats more, more than 12 million Americans over age 65 live alone, according to the American Psychological Association. As children grow up and move away, neighborhoods change, and friends pass, the opportunities for close connections sometimes become limited. Financial constraints and loss of independence and mobility can change looking forward to the holidays to dreading them. To help avoid the holiday blues, here are some steps you can take to restore holiday joy. Find new ways to connect, such as video chat and email. Write letters, cards and call. You do not have to wait for family members to reach out. Take initiative. Connecting with others is one of the best ways to relieve loneliness. It is heathy to feel sadness about missing family and friends. It is important to acknowledge your feelings. Volunteer and help others. If you are able, you can help with daily tasks that may seem overwhelming or share a meal. If you are feeling lonely, maybe your neighbor is, too. Being available for someone else is good medicine. Be kind to yourself. Continue your wellness routines and healthy habits. Rethink how you do things this season. Joy is not limited to the last two months of the year! Every day can be treated as a holiday! Consider trying a new activity or hobby or teach someone something you are good at. Limit screen time. A constant diet of bad news creates anxiety. Resolve to make the best of the holidays but adjust your expectations and adopt realistic goals. While the holidays may look different over time, they can still be meaningful. The most important thing to make someone feel special this season is to simply spend time with them. If you cannot participate in person, FaceTime or Zoom also work.Here are other ways you can help others (and yourself) find joy in the holidays and help banish the holiday blues: Share your traditions with others and enjoy theirs. Reflect about past holidays as you unpack cherished decorations. Listen to the stories of others and ask about special pieces. Make a conscious effort to be available for those who might be feeling isolated. Plan a regular call or visit or reach out with a video call or old-fashioned letter. For anyone who might be struggling with holiday loneliness, provide a comfortable space for them to talk. Save judgments or problem solving and simply have a genuine conversation. As you plan your celebrations, look for ways to be inclusive. Extending an invitation may not be enough to make others feel included. Being with a crowd of strangers who have little in common can still feel very lonely. Being recognized and honored goes a long way in combating loneliness. Be open to asking about and including favorite memories such as treasured decorations, traditional treats and meaningful music. Religious organizations often offer extra social and/or spiritual support. Just talking with someone can go a long way. Bring or send familiar treats that represent holiday customs for elders to enjoy and share. Often, holiday blues are temporary. However, if symptoms last for more than two weeks, they can indicate clinical anxiety or depression. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), socially isolated older adults are at higher risk for depression.It may be time to seek help if you or someone you love is experiencing any of these common symptoms of depression: Feeling so down you cannot shake it off Too little or too much sleep, or interruptions through the night Changes in appetite; eating more or less than usual Difficulty concentrating Lack of interest in the things that typically make you happy Irritability Lack of interest in socializing or engaging with others. Plan to look for and spread cheer this season, but if the holiday blues linger well beyond the season, discuss your symptoms with your primary care provider.ABOUT THE AUTHOR Courtney L. Whitt, Ph.D. is Director of Behavioral Health at Healthcare Network, which offers behavioral health services as a routine part of comprehensive care and traditional counseling services. Healthcare Network provides quality primary care services for children and adults in locations throughout Collier County. To learn more or make an appointment, please call 239.658.3000 or visit HealthcareSWFL.org.
Hearing loss isnt just a sign of getting older. It could be a sign that youre suffering from something much worse than simply old age. Hearing loss has been linked to several health concerns, including Alzheimers and dementia.More and more studies show a conclusive link between untreated hearing loss and cognitive decline. According to a study published in Geriatrics and Gerontology International, older individuals with hearing loss were more likely to experience some degree of memory loss than those with normal hearing.Its estimated that one in three people older than age 60 have hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis, is hearing loss that occurs gradually as we grow older. It is one of the most common conditions affecting adults.Presbycusis typically occurs due to changes in:Blood flow in the inner earNerves responsible for hearingHow the brain processes speech and soundCommon signs of hearing loss include:Asking people to repeat what they sayFeeling like others are always mumbling or not speaking clearlyDifficulty hearing and understanding speech in noisy environmentsMissing words or phrases on the telephoneTurning the volume up on the television or radio louder than normalEven though hearing loss is the third most prevalent chronic health condition facing older adults, only 20 percent of individuals afflicted seek treatment. On average, hearing aid users wait over 10 years after their initial diagnosis to finally get fit with hearing aids. This lack of treatment can create many detriments to ones health physical and cognitive.Effects Greater Than DecibelsHearing loss and cognitive decline are beginning to go hand-in-hand. People with untreated hearing loss are susceptible to a decreased quality of life. And the impact of hearing loss isnt simply measured in decibels. Unfortunately, it is far greater than that. In addition to the inability to hear, hearing loss is often associated with depression, sadness, and poor social relationships. All of which are key factors contributing to cognitive decline. Hearing loss and cognitive decline are beginning to go hand-in-hand. Hearing loss and cognitive decline are beginning to go hand-in-hand.Individuals with difficulty hearing tend to withdraw from social settings. If you cant hear, you cant participate in ongoing conversations. This alone leads to the following:Anxiety And Depression:Not being able to hear can become stressful, especially for people trying to communicate and be productive, such as in a work setting. If left untreated, hearing loss can have a negative impact on your mental health, thus increasing levels of anxiety and depression. These mental health conditions not only affect your feelings but they also affect the way your brain works and processes information. For example, tasks that involve recalling information become much more difficult.Increased Isolation:Because socializing becomes challenging and stressful, many with untreated hearing loss begin isolating themselves from social settings and other people. This has an adverse effect on your brain as it is no longer exposed to the stimulation that occurs during socialization. Just as your body needs exercise to keep moving and functioning, so does your brain. Conversations and interactions are exercises for your brain. A lack of these activities can impair your memory function and cognitive performance. It can also lead to cerebral atrophy or loss of brain neurons (cells).In addition to the effects listed above, untreated hearing loss also makes it harder to concentrate. When you cant hear or have difficulty hearing someone, you put your focus and attention on trying to understand what they are saying. Although this seems fine, it has lingering cognitive effects. Struggling to understand makes your brain work harder unnecessarily and forces your brain to strain and attempt to fill in the gaps. This depletes your brain of energy. When you spend all your energy trying to hear, your brain isnt working on remembering what is being listened to.When To See An AudiologistIf youre struggling to make out speech or suspect that youre experiencing hearing loss, have an open and honest conversation with your primary care provider. They can assist you in finding a qualified audiologist that will examine your ears and perform a hearing test to determine what type and degree of hearing loss you may have.From there, you can work with your provider to find a treatment option that best fits your needs. Theres no reason to be embarrassed or worry about your appearance with hearing aids. The hearing aid industry has come a long way since the days when they used to wrap around the ears and be a sight for sore eyes. Now, you can discreetly place them inside your ears and even match them to your skin tone to where they are virtually invisible.Treating hearing loss not only gives you back your ability to hear. It gives you back your freedom to communicate with ease. And most of all, it helps to safeguard your brain and keep dementia and Alzheimers at bay.